Civil engineering concrete canoe competition team hits the wake of the coronavirus pandemic

The Concrete Canoe team at the University of Nevada at Reno worked hard to launch their canoe and train to prepare for the annual Mid-Pacific Conference, the competition between 14 universities in the West. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the American Society of Civil Engineers event has been canceled indefinitely.

The competition, originally scheduled for April 23-25 ​​at the University of California at Berkeley, is designed to provide civil engineering students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and leadership skills while applying concrete concepts of technology and project management. There are many facets to competition, such as paddling races, writing a technical report, and making presentations. The winners of regional competitions across the country participate in the national competition traditionally held in June.

The team’s work began in September after the publication of rules, regulations, and design specifications set out by the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE. According to the University’s ASCE Chapter website, the process takes about 4,000 hours for the team of 20 students. The group recruited new students at the University’s Fall and Spring Club Fairs, as well as College of Engineering Club Fairs throughout the semester.

Kelly Keselica, a lecturer at the College of Engineering, is the club’s educational advisor and has many years of experience guiding the team to regional and national victories.

“As a counselor, I take the back seat and let the students design and build the canoe themselves,” she said. “It is important to allow them to practice their design and management skills before starting their professional careers. I usually step in if they run into problems or need help moving the project forward.

The construction process begins with acquiring polyurethane foam for the canoe mold, which they send to a local company to shape it into a canoe shape to their specifications. Once cut, the team sand down any irregularities and then apply a layer of resin to ensure that the concrete does not adhere to the layer of foam. The team waxes the mold so that the concrete canoe comes off easily. Two layers of concrete, an outer layer and an inner layer, are covered with a carbon fiber mesh. The mesh serves as the main reinforcement to ensure that the canoe can withstand the pressures of competition. The concrete is cured at 75 degrees Fahrenheit for high strength, and when finished, it is taken out of the mold and then sanded to achieve a smooth finish. The aesthetic theme for the canoe this year was based on the Nevada nuclear tests, with an interior design of a mushroom cloud against a sky blue background.

“I find it interesting talking to former project managers because they understand the amount of work and stress involved in the project,” said Colton Dodge, sophomore civil engineering student and team leader . “We have a ton of support from alumni. Many alumni work in these [sponsor] offices and are eager to help us in any way possible.

Due to the cancellation of the event, ASCE hopes to feature each team’s canoe in the near future.

“We are looking forward to the competition a lot more next year,” said Keselica.


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